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Taking Stock:
Reserve forests
By Rizwan Ullah

Human conscience, if it existed at all, was very uneasy over the killings of its own kind all over the world under one name and banner or the other. It wanted to be consoled and be at peace by showing some mercy to someone. Thus some species were chosen and declared to be endangered species. Reserve forests and sanctuaries were specified and defined where the endangered species could be protected under law with exemptions granted to VIPs, national or alien, providing with every facility to make sure that they enjoy kills of their liking may be bustards, antelopes, lions, even birds in a sanctuary. Yet another exception is the poacher community, who being a sort of fugitive from law are also on the endangered list and in need of protection by the kindly guards, although for a substantial fee, for both exist symbiotically. 

The case of mankind is quite different. Men of wisdom are worried over the alarming rate of its growth, over futility of efforts to put human urge on leash, the urge to reproduce, to dominate and to manufacture weapons of mass destruction so that the urge to dominate could be satisfied. However, the evident anguish over the growing invention of the means of eliminating living beings spurred the dormant feeling of kindness and the eagerness for its manifestation led to the idea of sanctuaries and reserve forests. Another reason for prompting this reservation business could be the much hyped philosophy of ecology. The idea being that everything naturally found in any particular area is a part of the whole and the minutest of them have a role in maintaining what is called ecological balance. But there seem to be groups of non-believers in the philosophy of ecological or any other balance at all. That is why they do not bother about human activities that poison the atmosphere by mixing gunpowder, even more poisonous pollutants, in the atmosphere.

While talking about reserve forests one is prone to be oblivious of the concrete forests growing in all directions, horizontally as well as vertically. These forests are very different from the foregoing reserved or unreserved categories. They raised block after block and complex after complex for accommodating a sort of species whose population is growing by leaps and bounds with no planning in sight or in mind to check it. It is self-multiplying and self-sustaining sort of species. Moreover, it is keeping the doors open for its ilk to enter the expanding complex and arrange and organize overt and covert competitions to lure outsiders to enter into those safe areas where they multiply and create scope for their progeny to flourish.

In spite of abundant opportunities to enter, there are many who are simply incapable of catching the bus. A safe and easy entrance has been provided for such disabled. It is called RESERVATION. This being the safest entry point more and more aspirants are attracted to it. After all who will chose a hard way if an easy approach is available? The rush for the easy approach created problems for the managers, for under the regulations a little less than half the gate could be opened for the easy entry-seekers. So the managers are trying to get such a structure that allows a little more than half the gate open although it is likely to suffocate those that are bound to chose the competitive way. Sooner or later a gate crash is apprehended. It is only to be seen who crashes the gate, the reservists bearing the competitions or the latter ones who claim to be more capable and having the will to do things, and do better.

However, this world can never be a perfect one. What is believed to be perfect is in effect nearer to the perfection. So in this case of rush for entry into the concrete complex provisions have been made for the able and the disabled, for the capable and the incapable. But still there remains a class or a category which fails to fall in any line. They have neither an elbowing space among the competing category nor any scope for being included in the reservist crowd. There is no humanitarian agency that can come to their rescue, for they have been branded as the species having the highest growth rate. There are no exponents of ecology who believe this species to be a component of the noble ecosystem and that the system will not work without them as the nature wants it to work. There is no group like the one that stands for mercy to the animal and at the same time believing in mercy to this species.

In view of all this the said species, that is a group of reservation-seekers, must satisfy themselves that some of the tallest among them are craning their necks, raising their heads and voice to demand a little leeway for this forsaken herd.

Tailpiece: There was a man-eater, a royal Bengal tiger, in the Sunderbans. Authorities wanted him to be caught alive (to be tried and hanged?). An American expert was invited (Bengal was non-Marxist then). He landed in Calcutta and proceeded on his way to the Sunderbans with great fanfare (Doordarshan was in its infancy). A group of people coming from various fields of expertise, including a photographer, accompanied. They waded through the Ganga estuary and the slush of Sunderbans to reach the area harbouring that beast. A band of drum-beaters provoked him to plunge as if from nowhere. The sharp-shooter shot a syringe instead of a bullet which pierced into the body of the animal. He fell unconscious. He was tied and dragged into a boat and flown to Calcutta to be treated in the Alipur zoo. But the animal never revived. The photographer covering the event slipped in the slush. He was dragged out but could never stand up as a disc of his back-bone was dislocated. He was granted a life long pension by the U.S. government.

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